A few questions to ask when you’re (un)certain

So, we know things.
Some things we know for sure. Absolute things.

Those are the most dangerous things.

I have known for certain quite a few things that turned out to be either 1) very much not certain or 2) very much not even close to true, let alone certainly true.

What a shock! To have some thing — some value, belief, ideal — in place as bedrock, only to have it crumble under your feet. It was only clay.

Maybe I’m just a particularly dumb case, but I don’t think so. I think I didn’t have the framework. Didn’t have a reality to fall into beyond the beliefs I’d held as certainties.

And when things did start crumbling and cracking, so much I couldn’t ignore it, I didn’t have the right questions.

I had questions like: What’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? How can I be better? Why am I failing?

Those were the wrong questions.

Now I ask different questions.

  • What is this: a belief, an idea, a value, a trait, a story?
  • Who is it about?
  • Where did it come from?
  • Does it make sense?
  • If I accept the certainty of this thing:
    • What tribe do I belong to automatically?
    • Whose approval do I get?
    • Where am I included? Where am I excluded?
    • What threats do I avoid?
    • What benefits do I gain?
    • What obligations come with it?

What I find, most of the time, is that I’m not dealing with an actual belief or idea or value. Usually I’m dealing with the moral of a story. And those can be — wow — pretty awful.

But if you accept the premise of a story, you tend to accept the moral it presents without many questions.

I am telling you: if you’re not aware of the stories running on a loop in your brain, start checking. And don’t assume because you got rid of one big story, you got rid of all its little baby stories too. Doesn’t necessarily work that way. Baby stories are adaptable, and they don’t mind getting shuffled to a different category or dressing up in different terminology, as long as they don’t get kicked out of your cozy brain space.